Alarmed at Increase in Smoking, New York Regulators Resist a Much Safer Alternative


FIN e-cigarette ad

The share of adult New Yorkers who smoke cigarettes, which fell from 21.5 percent in 2002 to a low of 14 percent in 2010, continues to rise, reaching 16.1 percent last year, according to survey data released yesterday. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene blames cuts to its tobacco control programs, which received $7.1 million last fiscal year, about half the budget in fiscal year 2009. I am skeptical. To the extent that government policies help explain the drop in smoking during the Bloomberg administration, I suspect that crushing taxes and severe restrictions on the locations where people are allowed to light up played a more important role than the health department's "public-awareness campaigns."

In any case, if the city's public health officials are genuinely concerned about the uptick in smoking, why did they support a crackdown on a much safer alternative? Last year New York became one of the first major cities to treat electronic cigarettes like their combustible competitors, despite a complete lack of evidence that they pose a hazard to bystanders. By forcing vapers out into the cold, rain, or heat along with smokers, the city council eliminated an important advantage that helped made e-cigarettes an appealing option for people thinking about switching.

"Instead of supporting their use to help people quit smoking," notes Jeff Stier of the National Center for Public Policy Research, "the New York City public health establishment spends resources demonizing e-cigarettes and making them less appealing to potential switchers." The main rationale offered by New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and other supporters of the vaping ban—that e-cigarettes might confuse people because they look like the real thing—was worse than frivolous, sacrificing the interests (and potentially the lives) of actual adult smokers for the sake of imaginary children who might suddenly decide smoking is cool after all.

Reason TV covers opposition to the vaping ban:

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  1. E-cigarettes are the assault weapons of the nicotine world. They look scary so they must be especially dangerous.

    1. No, they are the toy water pistols of the nicotinew world: a totem that symbolizes behavior the progs want to make taboo, even if they are essentially harmless compared to the real thing.

      1. At this point, being willing to smoke or vape in public indicates a willingness to engage in anti-authoritarian behavior. That sort of thing has to be discouraged.

      2. even if they are essentially harmless

        A friend recently gave up the e-cigs, because they gave him diarrhea.

        He was using them a lot, though.

        1. He’s using them wrong.

    2. Whenever I see someone vaping I think it looks like they are trying to sneak in a quick toke.

      1. half the time, they *are*

          1. “A regular gram of grass ? enough to make a nice-sized joint ? would cost about $20.”

            Really? Is it that expensive now, or is that what they charge at the Emmy’s?

            1. No.

              its just 2 mistaken assumptions piled on top of one another.

              One being that, “Regular” means, “Super-expensive, urban delivery-service varietal-kind-bud“…which goes for $50 per 2.5grams. And has done for about 15 years!

              (which really does demand an examination by economists how the street-prices for drugs manage to maintain such rigid consistency over time, only occasionally fluctuating by ‘weight outs’ or unit changes)

              …and then assuming people smoke that stuff in ‘bob marley joints’. Which they don’t – one hitters, or sprinkling on a rolled cigarette (amsterdam style) being far more common. even heavy users i know (and i know a few) make that 2.5grams last a week.

              It is interesting to note: the two most severe, chronic pot smokers I know? Both are NYC public school teachers.

    3. Bullshit! The assault weapon of nicotine has to be Nicolaxx. It is a nicotine suppository.

      Of course there are still a few issues to be ironed out. Like this one:

      Can I reuse my Nicolaxx after a bowel movement?

      The reuse of a Nicotine Anal Suppositories after a bowel movement is not recommended. We recommend using a new Nicolaxx suppository after your bathroom visit is completed.

      I mean, you have to be able to recycle your product in today’s green world. Right?

  2. Their lack of reasoning behind the bans always makes me think of this old Dilbert cartoon:

    1. Animism FTW

  3. The government is just pissed it isn’t getting a bigger cut of e-fags pie.

  4. Also in NY “I had a problem, they fixed it, then the owner called to help some more so fuck them”

    1. Compare to this video (NSFLunch):

      Those people find maggots in their chicken and laugh? Tougher people than I.

      I think I’d rather eat a McD’s chicken sandwich with a little spooge on it, than a maggot infested chicken thigh.

  5. “The share of adult New Yorkers who smoke cigarettes, which fell from 21.5 percent in 2002 to a low of 14 percent in 2010, continues to rise, reaching 16.1 percent last year, according to survey data released yesterday.”

    As with all things….

    Blame Hipsters

    Its my guess. Confirmation of that guess would rely on surveys of smokers in greater NYC and asking them ‘how long they’ve resided in the metro area’.

    My guess is mostly based on my observation that smoking in Manhattan since the 2003 ‘indoor ban’ has more or less stabilized, while in Brooklyn & Queens (read: where 20-something Hipster newcomers migrate annually in droves) it has grown significantly.

    I could correlate it with the growth in the # of bars in formerly residential outer-boro neighborhoods:

    ” bars and restaurants have led Brooklyn’s job growth, adding nearly 10,000 jobs from 2008 to 2012. In that period, Brooklyn’s leisure and hospitality sector grew 36 percent, twice the rate of the rest of the city

    …Steve Hindy, co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery, stated in response to the report, “Educated young people have been pouring into Brooklyn for the past two decades, and they responded to the 2008 recession by starting businesses in the food, beverage, media, and tech sectors.”

    1. I agree. I recently ate at a restaurant filled with hipsters and the patio was crowded with hipsters smoking cigarettes. It was disgusting. Eat at any normal restaurant filled with regular middle class folks and the smokers now usually have the decency to smoke in front of the restaurant instead of where people are eating.

      1. I fully understand that to people who don’t smoke it’s just an annoyance, but I have to say that a great pleasure lost (for smokers) in the move toward indoor smoking bans is being able to enjoy a smoke before or after dinner with a drink without having to get up and go outside. I can quite see why people would seize the opportunity to smoke at their table in place that allow it. Loads of places ban smoking in their outdoor seating areas now. If it is that distressing to you, you can go to one of those places. Let smokers have some little bit of pleasure.

        1. I was part of minority that opposed the NYC smoking bans in 2003.

          In the neighborhood i live in, there were a number of places that ignored the regs until fairly recently.

          There are some places that allow it in their outdoor spaces (and many/most have some outdoor seating); others ban it anywhere on their property; you have plenty of choice.

          I personally think that is the important thing – preserving the ability to choose.

          I used to smoke, and i was a regular patron at one place where smoking on the patio was completely de rigeur. Every now and then some other patron would assume it *wasn’t* and snidely tell me to put it out… because “new york city law”.

          I’d direct them to the owner, Pablo (RIP) = a chainsmoking Argentinian, who would proceed to tear their heads off and kick them out.

        2. If it is that distressing to you, you can go to one of those places.

          Oh, yeah, don’t worry – I’m not going back. I firmly opposed smoking bans. I know how to vote with my wallet.

          Just seems like not smoking around people has now become the courteous thing to do.

          1. “not smoking around people has now become the courteous thing to do.”

            So say you go to see “opera in the park”, as I did this summer.

            Are you supposed to default to “nag the people around you who are smoking?” (*cigarettes or other things), and if they ignore you, will you follow protocol and inform a Parks Department employee or a Park Enforcement Officer if one is available?

            People around me smoked weed. I got into a conversation with some of them (*note; sort of hoping they’d, you know, share); I mentioned the recent ban; they informed me *they had supported the ban*. because ‘cigarette smokers are dicks’.

            On the other hand, i smoked a cigarette @ Summerstage. Because everyone was. Apparently the “ban” is just a matter of context.

      2. Maybe you could stay inside with the other nanny-statists. The smokers probably don’t want snivelers like you around anyways. Better yet, go to a different restaurant.

  6. The headline here makes me think that writing articles for The Onion must be the most stressful, time-pressured job on Earth.

  7. I stood trial for smoking once. I got jacked out of a jury, though. I won.

  8. Seriously, what would you attribute the increase to? Are New Yorkers getting more nervous, so smoking more & enjoying it less? Is it demographics, with people moving in from places where smoking is more widely practiced, or non-smokers moving out?

    1. ” Is it demographics, with people moving in from places where smoking is more widely practiced, or non-smokers moving out?”

      As per my above comment – i’d argue its both.

      1. You’re both wrong. It’s Satan that’s making people smoke. And there’s no more godly and religious party than the Democratic party. They will protect you all from Satan.

        1. Tobacco- the new Devil’s weed with roots in Hell.

  9. This frustrates me not just on a liberty & logic level, but on a personal one. I’ve struggled with cigarettes for 15 years now. In recent months, I’d all but kicked the habit, thanks to my e-cig. Now I’m super-cracking down and trying not to even use an e-cig, but knowing I COULD really helps me resist that all-or-nothing freakout that comes with leaving behind such an intense frenemy as cigarettes.

    I also wouldn’t be surprised if one reason this is happening is that they know weed’s going to be legal soon and they want to be able to more easily spot vape pens!

    1. I don’t get it. What’s legal weed got to do with seeing vape apparatus?

  10. Why would they be alarmed? They’ve discouraged vaping, this is their doing.

    I suggest banning the sale of tobacco products completely if they care so much. Oh that’s right…. $$$$$$

  11. e-cigarettes might confuse people because they look like the real thing

    Bulls**t. These same people claim they choke up if someone lights a cigarette on the other end of a football field. If they aren’t gasping, it’s not burning.

    Besides, if you could vape at your desk, but had to go out in the freezing rain to smoke, wouldn’t that pretty much unconfuse the difference?

  12. Seems like a solid paln to medude.

  13. If smoking wasn’t cool, no one would want to vape.

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